Notes from Jan

RX: Music

May 20, 2021

Stepped outside, unmasked, and inhaled the scent of lilacs, fresh cut grass and mulched earth this morning. I love this time of year, the season when earth sends surprises, hidden but not lost in long, dark winters. During these days of leafing, blossoming, and singing birds, it’s like heaven and nature present a sacred symphony. Thank God for season tickets.

And I thank God for schools that still promote music and the arts. Ipswich public schools, where my two granddaughters attend is treating family and friends to its string festival this week. Monday night I attended Kate’s elementary school concert with my daughter-in-love, while Chad filmed the event and those to follow.

Usually we’re packed like sardines, but this year they’ve spread the concerts out, limited each family to two tickets and assigned seats to follow public health guidelines. Loved seeing the stage filled with young musicians. Kate played her cello and Maggie will play her viola tomorrow night with the middle school orchestra. Music brings us together and often heals hurts we don’t even know we have. Which reminds me of one of my favorite memories during the pandemic, a masked singer, seated a few feet to my left.

Some Sundays, I traded the on-line version, to bundle up and attend live church outside, masked and appropriately distanced. I love music: sung, played, strummed, tooted, or hummed. So, while understood, it startled me the first time I read in the church bulletin, “Please do not sing.” Though everyone was masked and muzzled by protocols, one old man(probably younger than I) couldn’t help himself. He sang behind his mask. As Harry Belafonte once said, “You can cage the singer but not the song.”

Speaking of songs, this morning, Dean Robert read Psalm 103. As I opened my Bible to follow along, I read in the margin,”Jud’s last day of the 6th cycle of chemotherapy at MGH, 11/1/2011.(also our daughter’s birthday!) There’d be more trials to endure, but on this day we sang in our hearts that psalm and hung on to hope and each other.

The Psalm begins,”Praise the Lord, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me.”(vs 1-2, NLT) Sometimes it’s the best we can muster, to tell ourselves, to trust God and remember the good, not just God’s goodness, but the good in nature, in medicine, in others, in ourselves.

As I write, memory draws me back to Mass General and the fear and uncertainty of that first day of Jud’s treatments. While nurses tended Jud, a young Haitian nursing assistant hauled over a large chair and said,”Sit, Mama!” So I sat. But she didn’t leave, she stood behind me and softly hummed, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I turned to her and said, “I know that song.” She said, “I thought you might.” Then she patted my arm and left me to finish the song and “tell myself to trust God and never forget the good things.”

Jon Meacham wrote in Songs of America: “A small thing, but in a dissonant world, every moment of harmony counts–and if we share music, we might just shout in anger a little less and sing in unity more. Or so we can hope.”

So lets hope, anyhow, and sing another verse, somehow. Can’t hurt but could help to heal hurts we didn’t know we had.

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  • Reply James B Griffin May 20, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    If Genesis 3 led to persistent and woeful disharmony, then the Passion and Resurrection leads to perfect musicality; heaven’s conversations are musical: melodious, rhythmic, and harmonious.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 11:02 am

      Imagine when heaven, nature and all God’s children gather to sing as One…one day, James. And all those God-gifted composers, musicians and singers from all the ages come to praise the one who placed the songs in them, for His glory and our healing and joy.

  • Reply Shannon May 21, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Thank you Jan, for your faithfulness “today” in praising God for His symphonic unity and beauty all encompassing. It is an abundant reminder of His desires for us and a reminder of His presence and sovereignty as we greet this day!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 11:05 am

      And thank you, Shannon, for your leadership this past year. at CBS…and for encouraging us to” sing ” over the summer, until we meet again.

  • Reply Nancy Vecchio May 21, 2021 at 10:01 am

    God bless you more and more my new and dear friend. Your blogs bless my heart. Thank you for sharing yours!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 11:06 am

      And thank you, dear Nancy, for sharing your heart and leading us in our CBS small group. Your kindness is contagious. Sing on!

  • Reply Alice M Shea May 21, 2021 at 11:00 am

    I too love music! I’m so happy that we can now sing(with mask on) at FCCH! Praise the Lord❤️

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 11:08 am

      And I just received word we can sing masked inside church Sunday and with or without a mask outside church. I can hardly wait! Hope my voice still works. ..but I can always “make a joyful noise..”

  • Reply David Smith May 21, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Funny–I wrote this poem last month, when the songbirds were having a particularly enthusiastic morning:
    Songbirds shrilling
    competing melodies?–
    or an avian orchestra
    following an unseen conductor–
    “Variations on a
    Hyperphonic Scale.”
    And, indeed, we “join with all nature in manifold witness, to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love!…”

    God’s peace be with you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 9:57 pm

      Beautiful, David. Thank you for reading and sharing your writing. And peace to you.

  • Reply Katherine Bagley May 21, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Thank you for this musing Jan, it brought tears to my eyes. “Sit mama” Sit and remember and be enveloped God’s faithfulness.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 9:58 pm

      Thank you, Katherine. It’s good to sit and remember God’s faithfulness…and the goodness of God through faithful folks like you and Jim and so many good people at Gordon.

  • Reply Dale May 21, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for reassuring me that in heaven I will have my operatic voice back. I few bad years here on earth will be abolished once I am in the angelic choir. You still might want to wear your headphones. This blog was refreshing when I needed to be refreshed. 🙂

    Love to you dear sister.


  • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    Your “joyful noise” will be welcomed up there, if not always down here. And it’s always refreshing to hear from you, my dear friend. Love always to you and Marty.

  • Reply Radina Welton May 23, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Jan, this piece moved me to eyes welling up. Music is my thing, especially church music as I have spent my life majoring in it via organ, piano, and directing choirs, children’s and adult’s. This morning, Pentecost Sunday, my husband and I attended a church down the road rather than our own local one. The pastor is Korean and has a fantastic voice. He did the call to worship in song, accapella, calling gently upon the Spirit to enter our hearts. Then he asked us to sing softly under our masks for the rest of the service music. My husband said he cried through half the service, and I was moved to tears several times as well. I am so thankful for the breath of the Holy Spirit moving in and through us, through you as well, that I had to share this! Thank you!

  • Reply Jan Carlberg May 23, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    How tender and beautiful, Radina. Today, we who were outside could sing without our masks and inside with masks. The sounds of singing voices was soul-soothing.,like “a balm in Gilead.” Thank you for sharing your story. It matters. You matter and so does your precious family. Thank you for all your years of playing piano and organ and for leading children and adult choirs. A sacred calling..

  • Reply Nancy Sheys May 24, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    From your first word to the last your thoughts blessed me more than ever! I have no word to say how they ministered to me!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 24, 2021 at 5:42 pm

      Oh, you gave me a boost of encouragement. Thank you, dear Nancy. Looks like we “ministered” to each other.

  • Reply Wendy June 26, 2021 at 11:49 am

    I’m so behind on your precious blog – have read but not commented as I’ve been so busy. But I’m glad to come back and re-read these as I left the email notice marked “unread” because they bless my heart so much. I especially love the story in this one about the young Haitian nurse – “Sit Mama”; “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, “I thought you might”; and God’s Holy Spirit continuing to minister to your heart and soul – whew. God is so thoughtful – and nurses are so often His angels, aren’t they?!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 29, 2021 at 12:58 pm

      Yes, nurses are often angels, especially obvious during the pandemic. My angel was a nursing assistant…but came with the love and strength of heaven through her thoughtful act of hauling over a heavy chair, then standing behind me to hum God’s peace into my fearful heart. I suspect you and Steve have been angels more than once to folks in need of a heaven-sent touch or word.

  • Reply Wendy June 29, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    You say the sweetest things <3

  • Reply Polly Ann Brown July 3, 2021 at 11:02 am

    A few years ago, in our retirement community in Lancaster, PA, a few of us worked hard on behalf of a young woman running for Congress. She was full of energy, integrity, knowledge, and compassion. She didn’t win but ended up as a significant sidekick to the mayor. After the election, folks on our committee wanted to keep meeting; we sought a name for our group that would signal to the community what we were or wanted to “be about.” We decided on “Hopeful Voices,” but have since discovered how difficult it is to remain “hopeful.” One issue after another leads us into conversatios that don’t reflect our name and purpose. “Where’s the hope in that?,” we find ourselves responding to a point made, albeit it a valid one. I’m going to send this blog to committee members. We need such reminders: “So, let’s hope ANYHOW and sing another verse, SOMEHOW.” We need not let those “anyhows” and “somehows” keep us from singing and hoping. Thanks, friend

  • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you, dear Polly Ann, for reading and taking the time to share such an important reminder of how hard it is to remain hopeful and not lose our song. Great to see you’re “back in the hood for awhile.

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